To Our Heart’s Content

First-time indie filmmakers at international festivals present their local stories to a global audience. Debesh Banerjee

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published: October 16, 2013 1:17:40 am

Laxman Utekar,40

Tapaal

After eight years of working on “other people’s vision” of films,cinematographer Laxman Utekar decided to make his own. His debut feature,Tapaal (The Letter) set in his village,Poladpur,Mahabaleshwar,is the love story of a boy who fancies a girl from the same village (above pic). He writes a letter to the girl and asks the village postman for help,who holds on to the letter without his knowledge. Thus begins the boy’s search for the letter. The 120-minute film stars a Marathi cast and has been shot in Junnar district,Pune. “The film is on the journey of the letter. The story is fictional but the clothes,the language,the people and the culture are inspired by my village. I have even used a dialect of Marathi spoken in my village,” says Utekar. The film premiered at Busan this year and will be screened at the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India,Goa in December.

Girish Malik,46

Jal

Girish Malik,originally from Delhi,always wanted to make a movie on the migratory flamingos in Kutch,Gujarat. But 10 years and many trips later,the script tells a tale of mysticism,love and fantasy. His 117-minute film,Jal,(right pic) premiered in the “New Currents” section in Busan’s film festival this year. The film releases in India in December. “I have tried to humanise the issue of water scarcity by weaving in love and emotion,” says Malik,a 20-year veteran in the television industry. Malik was a former Chau dancer,active with the Natya Ballet Centre in the early ’90s. He has acted in serials such as Banegi Apni Baat and Taara. In Jal,a team of anthropologists arrive in Kutch to save the migratory flamingos,and are helped by a local mystic to find wells in the water-scarce desert. He falls in love with a girl from the team. “During my travels,I meet many curious people; I live with many stories in my head,” he says. His next project is called Call Me Johny Deep,a story of a man who creates new families on his journeys.

Siddhartha Gigoo,39

The Last Day

Writer Siddhartha Gigoo latest anthology of unpublished short stories captures the trauma of a family at a Kashmiri refugee camp in 1994. It is now a short film,The Last Day. “There haven’t been many films based on Kashmiri Pandits living in camps,” says Gigoo,whose 12-minute film premiered at the International Documentary and Short film festival in Kerala,this June. It has been nominated in three categories at the London International Film festival this week. Gigoo had worked as a freelance scriptwriter during his days at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1997. In the film,the family patriarch is battling dementia,his wife has lost the will to live,while his son and daughter-in-law struggle for space in a cramped tent. The film is part black-and-white,part colour to show the gloominess in a refugee camp. “We had to look for old tatteredtents to recreate the camp,” says Gigoo,who shot the film in Jammu and Kashmir

last year.

Sangee Dorjee Thongdok,32

Crossing Bridges

Crossing Bridges mirrors the life of debutante filmmaker Sangee Dorjee Thongdok. In the 102-minute feature film,the protagonist returns to his village in Arunachal Pradesh after years of working in the city and feels a disconnect with his people. “This is about the younger generation who leave home early,in search of better opportunities and lose touch with their roots,” says Thongdok,a native of Shergaon village in western Arunachal Pradesh,who currently lives in Mumbai. His film premieres at the India Gold section of the Mumbai Film Festival this month and later travels to the Dharamsala Film Festival next year.

A graduate from the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute,Kolkata,Thongdok cast eager batchmates and local villagers for the film. “My friends from Mumbai literally froze while shooting in the biting January cold. I made them climb mountains but it was fun,” says Thongdok,who also wrote the screenplay and dialogues. The language in the film is Sherdukpen,a local dialect. It is perhaps the first film made by a local about the people of Arunachal Pradesh. “My future stories will be based on the Northeast because there are many stories to be told,” says Thongdok,whose next script is based on the increasing dams being built across the State.

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